Governor Crist Signs Legislation to Reduce Unemployment Compensation Tax (03/10/2010)

For Immediate Release 
March 10, 2010  

Contact:
Governor's Press Office
(850) 488-5394

Governor Crist Signs Legislation to Reduce Unemployment Compensation Tax

~Also announces $200 million in federal funding approved for Florida Back to Work initiative~

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today, as part of his continued focus on strengthening Florida’s economy, is hosting bill signing ceremonies in Tallahassee, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami to promote legislation that provides tax relief to nearly 474,000 Florida businesses. Passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature on the first day of the 2010 Legislative Session and formally signed into law by Governor Crist on the same day, House Bill 7033 reduces Florida’s unemployment compensation tax for two years by delaying changes to the unemployment tax calculation methodology.

“I am grateful to the Florida House and Senate for quickly passing this pro-business legislation that provides an economic boost and much-needed tax relief for Florida businesses,” said Governor Crist. “This legislation will help prevent layoffs and encourage businesses to create new jobs immediately.”

House Bill 7033 reduces the taxable wage base used to calculate unemployment taxes from $8,500 to $7,000 for two years. Funds collected are used to pay the 26-week state unemployment benefits. In 2012, the wage base will increase to $8,500 and sunset back to $7,000 in 2015. The legislation also allows employers to make their 2010 and 2011 unemployment compensation tax payments in quarterly installments without interest or penalties, as long as the employer makes the quarterly filing and payment according to the new schedule.

“Governor Crist, with the leadership and support of the legislature and businesses leaders, signed important legislation that will help Florida continue on its road to economic recovery,” said Agency for Workforce Innovation Director Cynthia Lorenzo.  “Reducing the unemployment compensation tax on employers means business owners can retain more than $1 billion over the next two years to invest in business expansion and job creation.”

“This legislation is critical to Florida’s economy, and critical for job creation,” said Rick McCallister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “There are few actions during this time of recovery that could have been more important.  We appreciate the Governor’s action, and the actions of the House Speaker and Senate President.”

“Without this legislation passed by the Legislature and immediately signed by Governor Crist, Florida’s small businesses would be announcing tens of thousands of jobs lost and thousands of businesses would have closed their doors,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  “Delaying the $1.2 billion tax increase is an economic shot in the arm and a strong signal that Florida is serious about keeping and creating jobs.”

House Bill 7033 also extends the "State Extended Benefits" unemployment compensation program from January 2, 2010, through February 27, 2010. Beneficiaries will have an additional 8 weeks to qualify for 20 weeks of benefits which are 100 percent federally funded. Approximately 15,000 Floridians would be eligible to receive the additional benefits.

“Postponing the payment of unemployment compensation taxes is clearly a win-win economic policy for Floridians,” said Susan Pareigis, president of the Florida Council of 100. “Those seeking employment will continue to be assisted during their search while employers will have an opportunity to regroup, strengthen, and prepare for a vibrant Florida economy of the future.”

During today’s bill signings, Governor Crist will also be highlighting Florida’s receipt of the first installment of funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the $200 million Florida Back to Work initiative. The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, in partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families, Workforce Florida Inc., and Florida’s Regional Workforce Boards, will receive the first installment of $61.2 million with the remainder to follow. The funds will allow Regional Workforce Boards to immediately finalize agreements with businesses to hire and train employees. The Agency for Workforce Innovation estimates Florida Back to Work will create as many as 10,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs through additional economic activity.

Governor Crist will be joined at each of today’s ceremonial bill signings by Florida business leaders, Agency for Workforce Innovation Director Cynthia Lorenzo and Senator Rudy Garcia. Legislative leaders and House bill sponsors Representative Dave Murzin and Representative Jennifer Carroll will join Governor Crist at the Tallahassee bill signing. The signings will be held at the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Bay Partnership, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

New tax rate notices, along with a Taxpayer Information Publication, will be mailed to Florida businesses by March 22, 2010. For more information, visit the Department of Revenue Web site at http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/ut_rates.html.

About Florida Back to Work

Florida Back to Work uses federal dollars to pay for up to 95 percent of a new hire’s salary. New employees must meet federal low-income guidelines and have a dependent child in the home to be eligible for the positions. Although federal funding for the program ends in September, the goal of Florida Back to Work is that participating businesses will retain the new employees. Participating employers will be listed on the Employ Florida Marketplace Web site, where eligible Floridians can also register and apply for available positions in their area. To learn more about the workforce services and resources available in Florida, visit www.EmployFlorida.com.

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